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FOR the past five months, Dawn Riley has been the skipper of an all-female crew racing a 60-foot sailboat in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

It is Riley's second Whitbread with an all-female crew. And the Detroit native seems to be getting tired of having only women crewmates. ``It's OK, but coed is the way to go,'' she says in a phone interview from Florida.

In fact, Riley's advice to future all-female crews is ``don't try to slam people in the face with being all-female. Whatever you do, do it professionally.'' She says that in the current race, the men have shown lots of camaraderie. ``They ask `What broke? Can we help you with anything?' '' In her first race on the boat ``Maiden'' she felt the men were patronizing.

One of Riley's shipmates, Australian Adrienne Cahalan, also believes in coed crews. She has sailed on many coed boats on the Sydney-to-Hobart race and had two male teammates on the 18-foot skiff ``Ella Bache'' that she skippered in Sydney Harbour.

But, Cahalan adds, ``at the end of the day, all-female boats are a good, marketable idea.''

In fact, Riley says coed is also the best way to field an America's Cup crew. This should make her life interesting, since she is one of the candidates to take the helm for the all-female America3 syndicate.

The America3 group is now holding highly publicized tryouts for female America's Cup hopefuls in San Diego.

Riley will miss the early tryouts because she will be back on ``Heineken,'' her sailboat, for the last leg from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to England. The women are now in seventh place in the 10-boat competition.

The last leg starts May 21. The boats will follow the Gulf Stream up the East Coast, dodge icebergs in the North Atlantic, and then try to survive the gales on the approach to England - all on a wet boat that Riley says can act more like a high-speed powerboat when it surfs down waves at 26 knots.

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